There are few better omens for success in football than the towering presence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who, along with his Milan teammate Thiago Silva, is reportedly set to join the Paris Saint-Germain revolution in a package deal worth around £51 million.
The pony-tailed assassin is the deadliest of trophy hunters. Since leaving Malmo in his Swedish homeland in 2001, Ibrahimovic has won titles in nine of 11 seasons—playing for five different clubs in three different leagues.
Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona and AC Milan have all hosted his alchemy, and now it's the turn of PSG—the nouveau riche French outfit with designs on European domination, who are set to make their biggest statement yet by capturing one of world football's most talked-about and sought-after talents.
PSG have clearly met his ambition—both in footballing and financial terms. And when you consider the vast sums already invested by their owners, the Qatari Investment Authority, it's easy to see why Ibrahimovic sees Paris as an ideal destination for his mercurial talents—and his considerable ego, of course.
"In my head I am the strongest of all," he said in 2011 (ESPNsoccernet). "I certainly don't need the Ballon d'Or to prove that I am number one."
With the acquisitions of Ibrahimovic and Silva, you could argue the PSG project just got serious. Since Qatari rule began in May 2011, the club have been on a rampant spending spree to compare with those that signaled new dawns at Chelsea and Manchester City. They now have a squad to compare with the best in Europe.
Here are a few of their most notable purchases in that time (fees as per transfermarkt.co.uk):
|Kevin Gameiro||FC Lorient||£9.7 million|
|Mohamed Sissoko||Juventus ||£6.2 million|
|Jeremy Menez||Roma||£7 million|
|Javier Pastore||Palermo||£37 million|
|Thiago Motta||Milan||£10.1 million|
|Ezequiel Lavezzi||Napoli||£22.9 million|
|Zlatan Ibrahimovic||AC Milan (tbc)||£32 million (tbc)|
|Thiago Silva||AC Milan (tbc)||£19.3 million (tbc)|
There are more where those came from and quite possibly more to follow this summer. PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti has already admitted Tottenham's Luka Modric is of interest (Daily Mail), and other names being mentioned include young Brazilian defender Dede (Talksport).
But no signing will get people talking like that of Ibrahimovic. The outspoken Swede is a player loved and loathed in equal measure, and he will yet again be tasked with justifying the vast transfer fees he's racked up in his career when he lands in Paris.
According to the Daily Mail, Ibrahimovic's move to PSG would make him the most expensive footballer in history—with combined fees coming in at somewhere between £130 million and £150 million. Some would say he's been worth every penny; others retain the belief he's overrated and simply the benefactor of excellent judgement when it comes to joining already strong squads.
But even if Ibrahimovic isn't quite as good as he thinks he is, it's hard to argue with his resume. He was Serie A top scorer with 28 goals last season and has been Italy's player of the year three times (2008, 2009 and 2011). Even during his ill-fated spell at Barcelona he still scored goals and helped Barca achieve a then world-record total of 99 points in a La Liga season.
Ibrahimovic's most recent outing was in international colors at Euro 2012, where he scored twice for Sweden and in three matches did enough to earn a place in UEFA's team of the tournament. There were still plenty who undermined his reputation though—with this article by James Olley for the Independent a typical counterargument to those who champion him.
There are few players in football who divide opinion as greatly. But even the non-believers must at least give Ibrahimovic credit for keeping us interested all these years. He might be an infuriating enigma, but he's our enigma. He keeps us watching, and he keeps us talking about him.
This latest move—should it go ahead as expected—will give Ibrahimovic the chance to lead PSG into a bold new era and realize their spectacular investment at Europe's top table. A French Ligue 1 title will be more or less expected next season, and a run into the latter stages of the Champions League the season after.
Said Ancelotti in January (as per Fox Sports):
I think we can improve this team, improve organization, the playing, the personality and the pride of this team.
These (PSG's Qatari owners) are all people who love football and they want their team be first in France and in Europe in general. It's a team of ambitious people and this is very important for a coach. It gives me great motivation.
Ibrahimovic's motivation will be equally as strong. Judging by his transfer record, you wouldn't dare suggest this is his last big move, but it's certainly one that offers a glorious shot at shooting down his critics and becoming the self-styled prince of Paris.
PSG clearly believe in the magic of Ibracadabra as strongly as he does himself. And let's be honest, even you don't, you'll be in audience watching next season anyway.